Professional Development Investment – 1
This is another piece under Challenge 44 – which is a project to improve my writing in 90 days. This is the first phase and the purpose of this phase is meeting a deadline rather than making remarkable content.
Investing in one’s professional development should be done with a clear idea of what kind of return you should be expecting. Now in the case of a business the return is almost always tied into some monetary indicator. In case of one’s professional development however monetary return is one of the most significant parameters but not the only one. In this article we will cover both the monetary returns as well as other impacts of one’s career growth.
If you have followed motivational speakers like Anthony Robbins, his mentor Jim Rohn or more recent leaders in that field like Darren Hardy you keep hearing the same message that you should invest as much as 10% of you income in your personal development which from our standpoint includes career development as well. Call it tithing for yourself. I don’t have a clue as to how they came up with such a generous percentage. May be because more you invest on our personal development the more they hope you spend with them.
I am a personal development junkie and yet I have never been able to come even close to that number. I think it is less about how much you spend and more about a clarity of a development plan to work on. But I will agree with one thing that these gurus suggest. More we invest in our intentional personal development we also increase the potential growth in our income. I particularly want to emphasize the word intentional. In other words you do not want to blindly spend 10% of your income on any class or whatever you come across just so that you have spent the 10% and then hope you will have a higher income. But if invested properly obviously you can see a more rapid growth in your income to the point that mathematically it would be like having an extra year of income every 5-6 years compared to the level you started with.
I had a career coaching client who barely made 30K in income as a teacher and had well over $120,000 in student debt. Considering that she could barely pay for rent I could not see how she could ever payoff that debt and had she done her career needs assessment she might have reconsidered going into teaching or to a school that left her with such a high amount of debt.
My recommendation is that your investment on your personal development should be driven from a realistic career development plan which we will discuss next.
As mentioned earlier it would be best to tie you personal and professional development investment to a career development plan. But what is a career development plan? A career development plan is a set of SMART steps that will take your career from where you are to where you desire you career to be. Now as I am sure you have heard before SMART stands for variations of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
Now, we can’t really develop a SMART career development plan if we don’t quite know where we are or where we would like to head. Of course, knowing where we are and more importantly where we have been is not that difficult to determine. Knowing where we have been vs where we are can give us a reasonable trajectory of where we might be heading without any intentional investment in our professional development. So that might be the first thing we may want to look at. If that trajectory doesn’t look good in terms of where we would end up, that would be a good time to start thinking about where we do want to end up.
As we start considering where we would want to end up we should also take into consideration few complications that is also faced by a business. Farther we project, the more inaccurate our projections become because the amount of uncertainties that are out of our control increases significantly. So we soon realize that rather than aiming for an end which for most of us will be joining our creator, it may be helpful to identify incremental career growth stages, at each of those milestones we might be presented with multitude of possibilities to consider. So for example rather than aiming to die as a general manager we could focus on managing a team of x and a budget of y within z years and then being responsible for a region with a revenue of whatever over a period of time.
As you are reading this section you may be coming more and more aware that with the rapid advent of technology and other forces that are impacting our economy and society it is not really realistic to develop a plan that becomes too specific with the parameters I was using as an example. So, what is the alternative? The alternative that I would like to recommend is to focus on skills and activities that have a more immediate impact on your career and yet could have a more lasting and long-term value. While there would be many examples to cover here, the two most important ones that I can recommend are communications and productivity.
Communications became an essential tool for survival and progress from the day there were more than 1 human being on earth. Communications or lack there of is what makes and breaks companies, teams, and relationships. Whenever we talk about communications, we almost immediately visualize our mouths. And that is that source of all problems. In a business environment, communications is as much about hearing, and listening as it is about telling. As a professional you will be communicating with your superiors, your peers, people who work for you as well as potentially external stakeholders and customers. Business Network International or BNI has a very powerful slogan, people don’t care about what we say until they feel we care. And in order for others to feel that we care they need to hear from us that we heard them and understood them.
The moment someone deeply feels that they are heard a magical thing happens. Guards fall and people become more receptive to what we have to share with them. We can not convince other people or seek their agreement if they feel they are not being heard. This is true with people who work for us and people we are trying to sell to whether it is your boss or your customer. This article is not a full course of the principles of effective communications. But I will go as far as saying that mastering the art and science of communications, will be the most important and lasting investment toward your professional growth. As a starter I could recommend the book The seven habits of highly effective people by Dr. Steven Covey. A next step could be some of the advanced communications courses with Landmark. And finally practicing with your coach and the people you work with will be the ultimate steps where you will start to see results not only from your own hard work but also from how you have helped others help you accomplish your goals.
The next area for a long-term investment that will carry through and will pay off irrespective of which direction your career turns in the future is improved productivity. We are all given certain number of hours each day to accomplish our goals. What we put into those hours and how we mange our own behavior is what set one person apart from the other. For one person they can barely complete more than two hours of truly productive work while someone else like sir Richard Branson manages 400 companies!